World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

COVID: Using AstraZeneca Vaccine Is ‘Right Thing To Do’ For Everyone, Says WHO Expert Panel

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert panel countered concerns over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine on Wednesday, insisting that “it’s the right thing to do” to use it – even in countries where variants had surfaced.

“Even if you have the circulation of a variant in a country, there is no reason that we see for now, not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine as indicated, to be able to reduce the levels of severe disease in that population”, said Dr Alejandro Cravioto, Chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE).

The development follows the recent release of data from a study in South Africa indicating that the AstraZeneca jab provided little protection against a variant of the new coronavirus among older people.

At a press conference in Geneva, SAGE Executive Secretary, Dr Joachim Hombach, described that study as “relatively modest”, while Dr Cravioto added that few over 65s had taken part in it.

Dr Kate O’Brien, WHO’s head of immunization, said that the South African study’s findings were “inconclusive, albeit demonstrating a low efficacy against mild and moderate disease”.

Absence of data

Most important was the “absence of evidence from that trial over whether the AZ product has efficacy against severe disease, hospitalisation and death”, she said, “and that is the outcome of most interest and most impact for early roll-out of vaccines”.

From research into the new coronavirus’s response to vaccines in trials so far, Dr O’Brien explained that the highest impact had been among the most poorly patients.

“For all of the vaccines there is a gradient of response”, she said. “The highest response is against the most severe disease and somewhat lower efficacy for moderate and then further down for milder disease…this is not unique to coronavirus vaccine.”

No upper age limit

The vaccine should be administered in two doses to people over 18 years old “without any upper age limit”, Dr Cravioto said, adding that the “best” interval between the first and second doses was eight to 12 weeks, to ensure an increased immune response.

Although the vaccine is “safe”, the SAGE Chair said that owing to a lack of available data, it was not yet possible to make a recommendation about whether the vaccine should be given to all pregnant or breastfeeding women.

That decision should be taken on an individual basis by a general practitioner, he added.

And because of a lack of available vaccines and the need to continue limiting the potential for the virus to spread, Dr. Cravioto advised that international travellers should not be given the jab.

No time to lose

Urging countries to use the AstraZeneca vaccine – particularly those for whom it would be their sole protection against the virus - WHO Chief Scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, insisted that there was no time to lose.

“The vast majority of countries that are still waiting to introduce a vaccine - and this vaccine may be the first one - certainly the benefits will far outweigh the risks.”

Dr Swaminathan also issued a call for greater genomic monitoring of COVID-19 transmission in initiatives including the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative.

“In many other countries the situation may be that with very limited sequencing they’ve been able to detect this variant, but they don’t know the spread. And therefore, they’re very cautious in making decisions based on very limited data.”

To date, there have been there have been 106,555,206 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,333,446 deaths, reported to WHO.

Vaccine solidarity call

In a related development, the heads of the WHO and UN Children’s Fund UNICEF on Wednesday made an urgent appeal for vaccine solidarity.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Henrietta Fore called on leaders “to look beyond their borders and employ a vaccine strategy that can actually end the pandemic and limit variants”.

Of the 128 million doses administered so far, more than three quarters of vaccinations have been in just 10 of the wealthiest nations, they said.

This is a “self-defeating strategy” that will cost lives and livelihoods, the UN officials said, before warning that it would also give the virus the chance “to mutate and evade vaccines”, while also undermining economic recovery.

So that vaccine rollouts can begin in all countries of the world in the first 100 days of 2021, the WHO and UNICEF chiefs said it was imperative that health workers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic in lower and middle income settings should be protected first.

They also called for the COVID response initiative known as Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT) to be fully funded, to help developing countries to deploy vaccines.

If fully funded, the ACT Accelerator could return up to $166 for every dollar invested, the UN officials maintained.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Syria: Economic Decline, Rising Hunger And Surging Humanitarian Needs

Syria’s fragile economy has “suffered multiple shocks” over the past 18 months, with its currency plummeting and joblessness swelling as people struggle to cover their basic needs, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council ... More>>

OECD: Final Quarter Of 2020 Shows Continued Recovery In G20 International Merchandise Trade

G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 ( exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth ... More>>

UN Report: Civilian Casualties Surged After Peace Talks Began In Afghanistan

Monitoring by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and the UN Human Rights Office has revealed that despite a drop in civilians killed and injured overall in 2020 there was a rise in civilian casualties following the start of peace negotiations ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs


2021: Critical Year To ‘reset Our Relationship With Nature’ – UN Chief

During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions. Painting a picture of the turmoil ... More>>


Paris Agreement: UN Secretary-General António Guterres To Mark U.S. Reentry With Envoy For Climate John Kerry

Watch live at webtv.un.org UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry at an event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Agreement this Friday. The discussion with the Secretary-General ... More>>

WeBeliev: Scoop In Conversation With Abhishek Sinha, Founder Of WeBeliev, An NZ Crowdfunding Platform

WeBeliev supports 17 SDGs, launching sector specific campaigns every month Q. What is WeBeliev and why did you start it? A. WeBeliev is a Singapore-registered crowdfunding platform aimed at fundraising for all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ... More>>